Daladalas

Or in most instances, legalized moving death traps. Most people here in Zanzibar get around by taking doladolas. They are brightly decorated vans or trucks with refurbished beds made to hold passengers and are the cheapest means of transportation other than your own two feet. Each one is licensed by the government and a keen eye will notice the announcements on each one saying, ‘licensed to hold 8/15/30 etc. passengers. A foolish mind will actually believe this.

Riding a doladola is uncomfortable at best and downright painful at worst. Cheap as dirt? Yep. Will you have your own seat? Probably not. Seat belts? Haaaa. In most cases the konda (conductor) is pretty reasonable with the number of people he’ll stuff in there, but every now again you get a konda who seemingly makes it a competition to see how many people he can morph into looking like dagaa (sardines) in a can.

For instance, last week I went home for lunch between classes (yeah, yeah I’ll get to explaining my ‘classes’ later for those of you who are chomping at the bit to find out what I’m actually doing here) and was in a rush on the way back to campus. Normally I don’t have to wait for a daladala to campus in the mornings, but now was a different story. I waited what felt like 20 minutes, but that could be the jua kali (harsh sun) talking. Finally, a daladala arrives and it’s one of the big buses that would hold maybe 30 people to wazungu eyes. It’s full. When I say full, I mean at least 50 people. I stood there and stared as the konda motioned me to climb on up. I took one step in and that’s pretty much as far as I went for the whole commute. Two or three other people climbed in behind me or in reality climbed onto the bus itself. I shuffled around the step I was sharing with three other people, my backpack was in the faces of the two people sitting behind me, and spent most of the ride leaning backwards in an arch, half squatting and half sitting on my new friends behind me. The only way I could hold on was to stick my arm out of the window and grab onto the frame of the door. At which point the dereva (driver) shouts that we need to shut the door, so we exhale and smash together some more, while I make the effort to shuffle my toes out of the way of the closing door. The entire time the lady behind was evidently not having as much fun as the rest of us sardines, and spent the rest of her time sighing and mumbling about the mzungu involuntarily being pushed into her lap like a helpless, breathing sack of batata (potatoes).

More people magically clung to the sides of the door and we stop and go, stop and go. We’ve barely made any progress on our journey due to traffic and the sheer weight of all 50+ human sized sardines. We stop. Remember when I talked about the daladalas are licensed to carry certain amounts of people? And how that doesn’t really happen? However, policemen still exist and if they happen upon you with overstuffed passengers, you run the risk of them taking some compensation for letting you do the illegal. Apparently, the dereva spotted a checkpoint ahead in the midst of all the traffic and thought maybe the policeman might bore of his job and walk away for some reason within the next three minutes. After some time we trudged on and tried to act inconspicuous while passing the policeman. (This is what comes to mind when I’m explaining this) Needless to say it didn’t work and he instructed the dereva to pull over and took his compensation.

I’m positive everyone around me thought I was mentally unstable because throughout this whole ordeal I couldn’t stop laughing. The whole situation was hilarious. Or it was one of those laugh to keep from crying moments wondering how long I was going to be stuck in a half back arch with other peoples butts in my face. Either way I’m laughing about it now and we all made it out alive, if but a little sore.

Daladalas. It’s a love hate relationship.

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